So the Inca trail. We got up very early in the morning and were supposed to leave at 5 but the bus was late. We then drove to kilometre 82 which is the start. Kilometres 1-81 are to Cusco but you can´t hike these. When we got there we met our guide and set off to the checkpoint. When we got there the guide didn´t have my ticket so he had to go back so we had another delay. We finally set off though by crossing a bridge over the Urubamba river. The first day was supposed to be quite easy as it was going along the river but it did have quite a few hills. The early part of the trail has families still living there so we saw lots of locals going along the trail with donkeys. There were also places where you could buy drinks or use the local´s toilet for a sole. We stopped for lunch about 1pm and then went on to the campsite which was only about 30 minutes further on. We had teams of porters to carry everything and a chef. We hired sleeping bags and air matresses which took up about 3kg and were only allowed another 3kg which the porters would carry for us. The rest we had to carry ourselves in our rucksacks. The porters are strictly monitored now so that they only carry a maximum of 20kg. Before 2004 there were no restrictions so the porters would often carry 40-50kg. The porters were very fast and were often sprinting along as they would leave after us but then overtake us on the trail so that they could arrive first and get everything set up. I think we had 12-13 porters as they had to carry our stuff, the tents, cooking gear, food for everyone.
As we arrived early on the first day we (us and the other gap group) ended up playing football against the porters and locals. The locals normallyt win due to the altitude. It was very hard work and I wasn´t particularly contributing so I sat out after the first game. It then started raining so I headed back. In the end it was 2 games each. One of the guides played on our team and had a massive row with some of the other guys in Spanish (he was quite blatently cheating).
We then had afternoon tea at 5pm which was a choice of hot beverages, some biscuits and popcorn. We then stayed in the tent as it was raining until dinner at 7pm. Most of the lunches and dinners started with soup – potato soup, vegetable soup, quinoa soup etc. 2nd courses we had chicken and rice most often, some vegetables, although one night we had lasagna.
We then went to bed as it was dark and there wasn´t much else to do.
2nd day we got up pretty early again. I think 5pm. Had some quinoa porridge. We then set off for the big climb up Warmiwañusca or Dead Woman´s Pass so called because of the shape of the mountain not because of all the people who didn´t make it to the top! The climb is 1200 metres so pretty much 4000 feet and bear in mind we were at altitude. The top is 4,215 m (13,829 ft) above sea level. We started off with the guide but then he said we could go at our own pace and take our time. It kind of ended up with 3 groups. Tom and Jermey who were quite fit striding off ahead. Myself, Shane, Catrina and Emma in the middle and then Lawrence with the guide further back. It was a very long hike but there were a couple of stops on the way with people selling drinks. I decided that the way to do it was to count steps. I had a big break every 500 steps and then a smaller break every 250, with pauses in between on very steep bits. We went all the way up this valley and finally got to the top at 12pm. Unfortunately it was cloudy at the top so we couldn´t see the other side of the valley. It was 11,100 steps up. We then had to go back down 600 metres to the campsite. I must admit I found this quite tough perhaps partly due to being tired and also due to the fact that some of the steps had a stream running down them and so were slippery. Got into the camp at 13.55. All in all we made pretty good time as most people get in between 1pm and 3pm. Our guide told us about a very overweight american guy who was going to quit after the first day but his wife told him we had to carry on. he got in at 7pm. Had a rest and we then played cards between tea and dinner. Then went to bed.
The next day was the longest so another early start. We started off by going up the second pass which was 300 metres up hill. After that it was mostly up and down until lunch. We saw several Inca sites along the way – a storage house and a small village. The village had a flight of very steep steps up to get to it (they weren´t much fun coming down either). In the late afternoon, it was pretty much all down hill. There was a split where you could see some Inca terraces or go direct to the campsite. I did the latter with Lawrence. One problem I was having at this point was that I needed the facilities. I was hoping to hold out until Macchu Picchu as the facilities were all grim with delightful squat toilets. I was debating whether it would be better to go in the woods as least the woods would be more hygenic! In the end though I didn´t. I was thinking that you see those t-shirts at Alton Towers – “I rode Nemesis and survived!” Maybe they should do a t-shirt, “I used a squat toilet and survived!” So got into camp about 5pm I think and then had afternoon tea and dinner before going to bed. Day 3 was 14,200 steps. Should mention that it had been drizzling most of the 2nd night and the 3rd day so it was poncho time. We had an impressive array of differently coloured ponchos which made me think of Reservoir Dogs or Cluedo. Tom had one he put his arms all the way through which he called the human condom. On the evening of the 3rd day we had a small ceremony where we gave the guide, porters and chef tips and Tom made a small speech which was translated into Spanish. It was interesting on the 3rd day we had jelly and a cake which made me think the chef was looking for a good tip. We were supposed to tip everyone in dollars – stupid 2 currency thing again.
The 3rd night it didn´t rain and we were woken up at 3am for a small breakfast before heading down to queue at a control gate. We were there quite a while (perhaps 45 mins) before everyone was let through (some people were queing at 3am -what´s the point). So we got through and had a final 2 hour walk to Macchu Picchu. Quite a lot of people were zooming past us. As I pointed out it´s not like Macchu Picchu wouldn´t still be there if we walked slowly. It´s not like the Boxing Day sales with a half priced fridge freezer at the end! So the first hour of the walk was quite flat and pleasant. We then faced an incredibly steep set of stairs which nobody fancied much. There was nothing for it but to get out my phone and blare out “Eye of the Tiger” at full volume. That got us all to the top in one piece. We then had a little bit morewalking before finally we had a few final stairs to the Sun Gate. We walked through it and were faced with a stunning view of dense cloud!
We waited a while and could see little bits in the distance but in the ened walked down where we met Johanna and Tuten who had taken the train. Fortunately the cloud did clear later but that´s for the next post.
One more thing. We walked 45km in total.